Consumer research should not end with market introduction.
April 15, 2005
- by Robert E. Stevens, GENESIS II(The Second Beginning) E-Mail: email@example.com
Market introduction is just the beginning. It has been my experience that far too many companies terminate consumer research once the product enters the market. There are many questions that need to be answered and cannot be answered until the product has entered the market. Questions such as:
I had just come on-board in the Package Soap Division when they were about to remove a new brand from a test market because it did not meet the sales projections after year one. I spent a month in the field evaluating the assumptions used in the determination of the projected sales. It was stated that, at year one, the brand had a 95% awareness level with a distribution level of 85%. Actual data collected in the field showed a 65% awareness level and a distribution level of about 60%. A far cry from the assumptions used in the sales projections. The brand was pulled from the market but successfully resurrected three years later under the Ultra Cheer name. Ultra Cheer was such a success that we immediately started the introduction of Ultra Tide.
- What is the distribution?
- What is the awareness level?
- Among purchasers, what is the acceptance level?
- What are the reasons for rejection?
- Does the brand live up to the promises?
- How or in what way does the brand not live up to it's promises?
At about the same time, I as reviewing our experiences with another new product that had been placed in two test markets earlier. The initial sales in both test markets were very good but repurchases were low. In both cases we could not identify a consumer problem. With the third test market about to start, I modified the research protocol. The modified protocol identifed the problem which could not effectively be corrected. The product was dropped immediately. The primary change in protocol was the utilization of in-store interviewing as opposed to telephone interviews.
In another case, we introduced a new laundry detergent into the market. All testing of the new product was favorable, actually very favorable. However, shortly after introduction we started to receive a low level of complaints about the product destroying clothes. We immediately set out to identify the source of the problem. Through some habits and practices work we found that some people were mis-using the product which resulted in the damage. While in a test market the number of problems were very low. If we went national we could expect an unacceptable level of complaints. We ended up addressing the problem through a formulation change dealing with the active ingredient. Today the brand is one of the market leaders.
How would you like to have a brand that received a high level of testimonials for economy? We had one but we found that our sales were significantly less than predicted. This was not acceptable. Our market research found that our Salvo tablets were not dissolving in a single wash. The consumers were using a single tablet for two loads. Back to the drawing board to make sure the tablets dissolved in a single load.
The best example of in-market research was the event I wrote about a few weeks ago involving Camay and Safeguard sales in the Philippines whereby cutting the shelf age of the bars resulted in a major increase in sales. Visit here to see the Views of 12/20/04, "A cup is a cup or is it a cup?"
Consumer research after market introduction can have a major impact on the company's bottom line.
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